Crab and lobster “to be avoided”: the industry is angry

Crab and lobster “avoid”: the industry is angry re


The recent decision by a Californian organization to declare “to avoid” crab and lobster caught in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the American east coast because fishing practices in these areas would threaten always right whales is very poorly received by the industry. 

Seafood Watch, a seafood fisheries monitoring program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, says current management measures for the crab fishery and lobster fishery in the northeast mainland are not going well. far enough to mitigate the risk of entanglement and promote right whale recovery.

Several large purchasers of the affected products, including Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, support the recommendations of Seafood Watch, much to the chagrin of processors and fishers.

On both sides of the border, Seafood Watch is being criticized for making a poorly documented decision that ignores the industry's efforts and motivation to improve.

Lawyer who represents them, Katherine Morissette, of MKM Global in Montreal, points out that no whale mortality associated with the fishery has been reported for five years.

Snow crab fishers and processors in Quebec and New Brunswick are notably involved in a fishery improvement initiative commonly known as the FIP (Fishery Improvement Project), in order to promote sustainable coexistence with endangered mammals and thus recovering the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainable fishing certification that they lost in 2018.

“It shows that the scientific committee of Seafood Watch did not have access to all the available data, says Me Morissette. Despite an invitation from us last June, at no time did Seafood Watch communicate with us or solicit data relevant to the analysis. These are people who are in office towers and who are clearly disconnected from the field.”

Same story in Maine, where lobster fishermen, among other things, have removed nearly 50,000 kilometers of water ropes to prevent whale entanglement, the last of which was in 2004, according to TV station WCSH.

The snow crab industry in the southern Gulf intends to consult with the lobster industry in eastern Canada, also affected by Seafood Watch's discount, in order to obtain a retraction from the organization.

“We absolutely have to settle the file before next spring,” says Jean-Paul Gagné, director general of the Quebec Association of the Fishing Industry (AQIP). There is no reason to put lobster on the red list. The fishery is still under MSC certification and there have never been any interactions with the right whale so far.”

That said, Katherine Morissette relativizes the importance of an organization such as from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“It shouldn't be overstated,” she said. It is one of several rating systems. […] Our partner Sustainable Fisheries Partnership also has such a classification system and publicly qualifies, with supporting citation, our FIP as a “success story”.

Me Morissette nonetheless admits that Seafood Watch's decision can hurt the industry very badly.